WILLITS, Calif. - A 27-year-old Northern California homeless father has been arrested after Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies say he tied up his diaper-clad 2-year-old son to a tree branch.
Jeffrey Wilson of Willits, Calif. was taken into custody on July 27 on suspicion of felony child abuse and being in possession of a controlled substance. Efforts to reach Wilson and his public defender were not immediately successful on Thursday. But Mendocino County District Attorney spokesman Mike Geniella told KTVU on Thursday that Wilson entered a not guilty plea when he was arraigned on July 31.
Last month, Sgt. Quincy Cromer said that deputies responded to the homeless camp where Wilson was living about 3:20 p.m. that day in the 900 block of Highway 20 after the property owner called to complain that people were illegally camping out on her property.
This same situation had been reported to the sheriff's office many times, Cromer said, and was currently under investigation.
When deputies arrived, they found Wilson's son tied to a tree branch, Cromer said. A rope was tied to the toddler's wrist. "The child was also lacking basic food and water, was only clothed in a diaper and was exposed to numerous hazards within the encampment," Cromer wrote in a sheriff's statement.
Deputies also found weapons and other "dangerous items" within the child's reach. Child Protective Services took custody of the boy, and Animal Control officers came out to take in numerous animals found at the encampment. The sheriff noted that a 57-year-old woman, believed to be the boy's grandmother, was a victim in this case.
Wilson was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on $25,000 bail, which has since been reduced to $5,000, court records indicate.